Chelsea 1 – 0 West Bromwich Albion
Demba Ba saves Rafa Benitez’s job for one more week. It was a routine win for the Blues at Stamford Bridge during a week that was anything by standard. Losses to WBA had been the catalyst for Roman Abramovich to fire Andre Villas-Boas and Robert Di Matteo. There was some hope from some Chelsea fans that a similar loss on Saturday would see Benitez go away and he was feeling the heat. His mid-week press conference was almost as bad as Arsene Wenger’s the week before as he ranted about his dislike of the title of “interim manager” and fans constant booing of him. The match itself was a bit boring as West Brom haven’t won at the Bridge in the last 35 years and were never likely to reverse that trend. The one good thing for the Blues has been the acquisition of Ba and he grabbed the inevitable goal for the Blues in the 28th minute when David Luiz headed Oscar’s cross over to Ba who swept it in for the score. The rest of the highlites of the match were listening to the crowd invent new and entertaining chants to voice their hatred of Benitez. They had been banned from displaying any sort of banners that disrespected the Spaniard, but clearly they are hoping that the “interim manager” is on his way by the end of the season.
Everton 3 – 1 Reading
The Toffees get three goals to heap more misery on the Royals. UEFA Champions League qualification for next year is still the goal for boss David Moyes and they set about toward making that goal happen on Saturday. There was an interesting wrinkle in this match as both starting goal keepers, Tim Howard for Everton and Adam Federici for Reading, did not play due to injury. Jan Mucha took Howard’s place and Stuart Taylor was on goal for the Royals. Nikica Jelavic had an opportunity to test Taylor in the first minute of the match but his header missed off to the left of goal. Most of the first half was pretty evenly fought until the 41st minute when Seamus Coleman’s cross was smashed home with a powerful header from Marouane Fellaini. Fellaini was the architect of Everton’s second goal in the 58th minute when he put Steven Pienaar in on goal and the winger was able to get around the defense and hit a lethal strike into the top corner of the goal. Pienaar was able to work some expert passing with Kevin Mirallas that was finished off by Mirallas poking home into the bottom left corner of the goal to make it 3 goals for the Toffees. The Royals did manage to get a consolation goal in the 83rd minute when Hal Robson-Kanu headed home Ian Harte’s cross. The final whistle left Reading in deep trouble as they are second from bottom of the table.
Southampton 1 – 2 Queens Park Rangers
QPR gives their boss Harry Redknapp a great birthday present. It doesn’t get them off the bottom of the table, but it could serve as a start to saving their season. QPR seemed to have been inspired on Saturday and they got the first goal in the 14th minute when Junior Hoilett sent a great through ball over to Loic Remy who was able to poke it home. Southampton boss Mauricio Pochettion, who was also celebrating his birthday, was not amused with how easily his side gave up the goal. His side have also been struggling a bit, but his mood lightened right at the interval when Gaston Ramirez was able to poke home a rebound from Jay Rodriguez shot. QPR keeper Julio Cesar’s save landed at the feet of Ramirez and he was able to equalize right before the half time whistle blew. Such a goal has usually finished off QPR this season and assured that at some point they would get discouraged and lose. But that didn’t happen Saturday. When the second half started, QPR fought resolutely to keep the Saints from scoring. Cesar was again the master of his goal. The one thing that has been a problem for QPR in their relegation fight has been getting wins and this match had all the makings for another draw. But in the 76th minute, midfielder Ji-Sung Park delivered a cross that Jay Bothroyd was able to put home to put the visitors ahead. That was all QPR would need as they were able to put the bow on Redknapp’s 66th Birthday Present.
Stoke 0 – 1 West Ham
Jack Collison’s half time strike helps end the Hammers’ run of five straight league defeats. This one was a bit dull and the Hammers had to make two substitutions in the first 11 minute when Matt Taylor and Joe Cole each had to go off injured. Taylor took a Peter Crouch boot to the face defending the striker’s overhead kick attempt. Collison came on for him in the 10th minute. Cole pulled up lame in the 11th minute and had to be replaced by Ricardo Vaz Te. The lone goal came right as the half-time whistle was about to blow. Vaz Te was able to get through the Stoke defense by working a one-two with Andy Carroll. He then poked in a pass for Collison who was able to turn and drill his shot past Stoke keeper Asmir Begovic. When the second half started, Stoke had a penalty appeal denied when Cameron Jerome went down under Joey O’Brien’s challenge. The referee saw nothing wrong and waved play-on. That was about all there was to this match until deep into stoppage time when the Potters had another penalty shout ignored when Guy Demel appeared to handle a ball in the Hammers’ area. The loss was only their second at home this season and moves the Hammers one place below them in the BPL table.
Sunderland 2 – 2 Fulham
The Black Cats snatch a draw versus the Cottagers. This is a match that Cottagers’ boss Martin Jol will not be happy about. If there was any hope of qualifying for any of the European places next season, the result from Saturday put a hole in them. They had started out so well when they were awarded a penalty kick in the 16th minute. Craig Gardner was judged to have tripped Ashkan Dejagah inside of the area and Dimitar Berbatov cleverly put the spot kick home to give his side the lead. Things almost got worse for the Black Cats in the 25th minute when Dejagah got in behind the defense and put his shot just to the left of goal. But the home side did go down another goal in the 35th minute. The visitors were able to effectively launch a counter attack after defending a corner kick and Dejagah got in on goal again. His shot was parried by keeper Simon Mignolet, but Sascha Reither was able to put the rebound home to make it two for the visitors. Sunderland were given a lifeline in the 37th minute when Fulham defender Philippe Senderos was penalized for his challenge on striker Danny Graham. Craig Gardner score the spot kick and gave some renewed vigor to his team. They nearly equalized right at the stroke of half time when Stephane Sessegnon’s shot was saved by saved by Cottagers’ keeper Mark Schwarzer. One of the characteristics of a Martin O’Neill team is the “never say die” attitude. That was present in the Black Cats on Saturday as they continued to fight for the equalizer which finally came in the 70th minute. Sessegnon was able to pounce on a loose ball in the Cottagers’ area and drill it past Schwarzer. Berbatov nearly got his side back into the lead a short while later when Mignolet was able to get off his line and block the Bulgarian’s effort on goal. There would be no break thru for either side but the result saw the Black Cats ending their run of three successive league defeats.
Swansea 1 – 0 Newcastle
Luke Moore’s late goal helps the Swans win over the Magpies. The Welsh side might have been a bit guilty of over celebrating their Capital One Cup trophy coming into this match. But they have done a wonderful job representing Wales this season. The Magpies have an awful away record this season, having once in their travels and they never looked like they were going to make any sort of effort to improve that record on Saturday. Miguel Michu, who has been one of the stars for the Swans this season, nearly got things started in the ninth minute. He was able to get behind defender Rob Elliot and set up Ashley Williams for a simple finish, but the Welsh captain scuffed his shot and Magpies’ keeper Steven Taylor was able to clear it off the line. The home side thought they had a penalty claim a little while later when Steven Debuchy had the ball strike his hand after an aerial challenge with Ben Davies, but the referee judged that it was not deliberate and waved away any appeals. As the match wore on, tempers got shorter as each side struggled to mount any sort of attack on goal. As the referee signaled for half time, Leon Britton and Papiss Cisse had a bit of an argument as they walked into the tunnel. Magpies boss Alan Pardew unwisely got in the middle of the scrap and had to be restrained by his players. The second half saw more of the same and it looked like a draw was eminent. But in the 84th minute, Luke Moore was able to get around Yohan Cabaye and hit his shot beyond Taylor to cap a wonderful week for Swansea and their fans.
Wigan 0 – 4 Liverpool
Luis Suarez gets a hat trick as the Reds deliver a face punch to the Latics. This was an easy one for the Reds. It wasn’t much of a contest and it was pretty much over in the second minute when Stewart Downing headed home Phillippe Coutinho’s cross for the opening goal. Wigan just had no answer at all for Liverpool as they attacked at will. Any attempts by the home side were easily dealt with by keeper Pepe Reina. Suarez got the second goal for the visitors in the 17th minute when he bundled home Coutinho’s perfectly weighted pass. Gerrard nearly scored the third for the Reds when he was found by Coutinho’s pass over the top. Suarez got his second goal in the 33rd minute when took a brilliant free-kick that deflected off Shaun Maloney and eluded keeper Ali Al-Habsi desperate grab, bounced off the post and into the net. Suarez capped off his hat trick just after the half time interval when winger Glen Johnson made a fine surging run down the right and made a great pass for the Uruguayan tap home. The win gives the Reds a chance to get themselves into the European places and Suarez’s performance makes him the top scorer in the BPL.
Tottenham 2 – 1 Arsenal
Goals from Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon lift Spurs over the Gunners in the North London Derby. Boss Andreas Villas Boas had a great day on Sunday. He was able to beat his North London rivals and crap third place away from his former employers Chelsea. It was an interesting match and the Gunners had the first chance in the 6th minute when Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris was forced into a save from Olivier Giroud off of Jack Wilshere’s corner kick. Of course no London contest would be complete unless there was at least one booking and Emmanuel Adebayor got the first in the 18th minute when he made a dumb challenge on Aaron Ramsey in the middle of the park. Jan Vertonghen obliged ten minutes later when he was judged to have made a dangerous challenge on Giroud. Aaron Ramsey went into the referee’s book in the 29th minute when he brought down Aaron Lennon in the Gunners defensive third. Gareth Bale finally took charge of things as he has done all season long and got the opening goal in the 36th minute. He was able to get in behind the Gunners defense and poke his shot past keeper Wojciech Szczesny. What was so significant about the goal was the ease with which the Welshman was able to cut through the Arsenal defense. Aaron Lennon was able to do it again in the 38th minute when he took Scott Parker’s pass and eased through the defenders and past Szczesny to tap the ball into the empty net. Halftime could come soon enough for the visitors and whatever was said in the locker room inspired the Gunners who had a goal back five minutes into the second half. Per Mertesacker was able to head home Theo Walcott’s corner kick and the match became a contest again. Walcott nearly leveled soon after when his own header went over the bar. Spurs had a bit of a setback when Adebayor was stretchered off in the 63rd minute with an apparent knee injury. But they should have gotten their third goal in the 70th minute when Gylfi Sigurdsson, who had made an amazing run though the Gunners defense, chose to square the ball across instead of shooting on goal. But the Gunners never really came close to getting the equalizer and the final whistle saw them fall five points behind the UEFA Champions’ League places.
Aston Villa 0 – 1 Manchester City
Carlos Tevez’s first half goal is enough to see three more points to the Champions. Things are a little tense at Citeh lately. There are only 10 matches remaining and they don’t have a good grip on their BPL trophy at the moment. There is still time for a repeat of their classical miracle from last season, but boss Roberto Mancini knows that something really special is needed, especially after their last BPL performance in which they looked absolutely ordinary at Southampton. There’s also the sound of footsteps behind them as Spurs are making a great finishing run and sit only five points behind in third place. Villa on the other hand look like they’re going down. They just aren’t playing well and although they’re tied with Wigan on points, their goal difference is not good. So this match started out a bit slow as neither side wanted to give anything away. The Villains’ keeper, Brad Guzan, made several great saves as the visitors began to shake off their bad playing form. It looked like the Villains had gotten better at defending as the first half wore on and even managed a chance or two. A draw would have done them a world of good, but alas, it was not to be. Ciaran Clark got caught in possession by substitute Edin Dzeko who then threaded a precise pass over to Tevez. The Argentinian then calmly cut back inside the box and poked his shot past Guzan right at the half time interval. The hosts seemed to wilt afterward and the Champions knew the points were safe. The second half was little more than a training ground exercise. But Mancini is still hoping that this is the start of the revival that will keep the Premiership on the “Blue Half” of Manchester.